Bring on the Bas-Rhin: Mochel, Mélanie & Co.

Whenever clients sign up for one of my vineyard tours, or we have a bunch of wine-inclined friends visiting, I automatically home in on the vineyards of the Haut-Rhin in the southern part of Alsace. Two reasons for this: firstly, I live closer to these so they’re my logical first port of call. Secondly, the Haut-Rhin – in wine terms stretching from Thann northwards to St Hippolyte – is where pretty much all the best-known Alsace estates are situated – think Trimbach, Hugel, Zind-Humbrecht, Faller, Muré, Zusslin, Albert Mann just for starters…


Continue reading “Bring on the Bas-Rhin: Mochel, Mélanie & Co.”

Harvest in Alsace: Dirler-Cadé, Zusslin, Martin Schaetzel by Kirrenbourg, Bott-Geyl & Jean-Marc Bernhard

My definition of an absolute no-no includes descending on winegrowers slap-bang in the middle of harvest. They’re commuting between the vineyards and the cellar, picking (and tasting) grapes, checking up on the health of the grapes, peering into refractometers to measure the potential alcohol of the wine, supervising tractorloads of deliveries, sorting, selecting, fermenting, pressing… This is soooooo not the moment to propose a visit.

So how come last week I broke my own self-imposed rule? I had a couple of people from the States sign up for a vineyard tour, and these were the only dates they could do. I hate to miss the chance to share the latest excitements in our little wine world (ça bouge en Alsace!), so I agreed – but warned them we might not be able to see all my favourite people (FPs), for all the reasons outlined above.

Continue reading “Harvest in Alsace: Dirler-Cadé, Zusslin, Martin Schaetzel by Kirrenbourg, Bott-Geyl & Jean-Marc Bernhard”

Oenothèque Alsace: 10th Anniversary

Ten years ago Thierry Meyer (formerly contributing editor for Bettane & Desseauve wine guide, Alsace Regional Chair for Decanter World Wine Awards, leader of Alsace master-level education programme for the Wine Scholar Guild and all-round Alsace wine geek) founded Oenothèque Alsace (

To celebrate the 10th anniversary, Thierry conducted a mystery masterclass in Colmar – “mystery” in the sense that none of us knew in advance which wines would be presented/discussed, nor what the key themes would be. Wines would be drawn from the Oenothèque’s stock of around 1200 bottles collected over the last decade, currently valued at around €18,000. We were promised that such a wine selection shows up only once every 10 years and we shouldn’t miss it. I didn’t. Continue reading “Oenothèque Alsace: 10th Anniversary”

Domaine Agapé, Riquewihr

IMG_7227-1Vincent Sipp left the family winery Sipp-Mack in Hunawihr in 2007 and set up shop on his own at Domaine Agapé on the edge of the village of Riquewihr. According to my dictionary, the word agape means variously: ‘a state of wonder or amazement’, or ‘love’ or even ‘a meal celebrated as a sign of love’. And according to Vincent’s delightful helpmate who welcomed us, all of the above are included in the concept of the domaine’s wines.  I rather like the suggestion that they’re set to a) knock your socks off, b) seduce you and c) make a loving match with food.

The domaine consists of around 9 hectares of vines, around a third of them in Grands Crus in Riquewihr, Ribeauvillé and Hunawihr (Schoenenbourg, Osterberg and Rosacker respectively). They make 50-55,000 bottles p.a., and do a brisk business in Belgium and Denmark (the Danes are good clients of Alsace and its wines – no wonder my book Alsace Gastronomique went into a Danish edition).

This is a small, simple and delightfully informal winery – perched on a bench in the cellar/despatch room we worked our way through 12 wines, from a pale straw, aromatic, fruity/dry Pinot Blanc Auxerrois Expression (€7) right up to a sublime, silky, long-lasting ’07 Gewurz Sélection de Grains Nobles (check the website for the price, it’s not made every year). In all, an admirably coherent range of straight, upright, clean-as-a-whistle wines. There’s a helpful dryness indicator on the back label in the form of a pictogram numbered 1-6 (1 being dry and 6 sweet). Entry-level wines are labelled Expression, Grands Crus are given full credit and late-harvested are labelled Helios, on account of all that sunny ripeness.

STOP PRESS: Eric Asimov in The Pour (New York Times Dining & Wine) recently recommended Domaine Agapé’s Crémant, Émotion, which retails in the US for about $20.

After the tasting, we tottered down into the town for lunch at the Brendelstub – a fave little bistro-style place on the main street (almost opposite Hugel) in a classic, half-timbered building done up in modern/funky style with electric colours, a good playlist and really decent, quite quirky food (rare for Alsace, particularly on the Route des Vins): think salads with scallops and prawns or with goat’s cheese in an almond crust, choucroute tout canard “Made in Alsace” (local duck done en confit with home-made choucroute),  farmyard chicken or lobster done in the wood-fired oven or the rotisserie, plus a fair few Asian-inspired dishes which match perfectly with the more aromatic Alsace wines.  Excellent selection by the glass, including an Agapé Gewurz – tho’ not that wicked Helios SGN 😦

Domaine Agapé
10 Rue des Tuileries
68340 Riquewihr
Tel. : 03 89 47 94 23

48 rue du Général De Gaulle, Riquewihr
Tel. : 03 89 86 54 54